Saturday, March 24, 2007

Art Garage, SC, and the long drive home

posted by Majestic Ape at 12:06 AM

Our final show of the tour is at the Art Garage in Columbia, SC. We played here last October with The Slits. The venue is pretty cool as they have sleeping quarters for the bands. The folks who run it, Jonathan and Amy, go out of their way to make sure everything is taken care of. There are plenty of drinks, awesome food, and clean beds. Done. There is nothing else left to desire.

At our first gas stop after Birmingham, a man approaches the van and asks what part of Maryland we are from. We tell him we are from DC. He shares that he used to live in Laurel, MD but he thinks living in Alabama is much better. I express how much friendlier Southern people are compared to Washingtonians. He replies back, “I don’t care about the heart or the love. I like the price of houses and the money!” Amen, brother. Amen.

Since I’m kind of sick of writing by now, I’ll try to keep this part brief. There are opening bands. We set up. We change clothes. I take a sip of Dickels Whiskey. Why not? It’s our last show. We play to some very energetic and appreciative people. Jeff’s high hat finally completely falls apart. We all hang out afterward.

In the morning we return to El Burrito, owned by Susie, who generously fed all of us for free on our last tour. She is out of town but has left instructions with her staff to feed the Apes for free. How cool is that?

While we are sitting, eating on the patio, I listen to a woman talking at the table next to ours.

“You know how many times I’ve been hit in the head by a pine cone? I hate squirrels!”

We leave a tip, pee, and leave.

As always, the final drive home starts out okay. I drive the first shift until I’m told to stop at South of the Border, the bizarre tourist attraction at the South Carolina/North Carolina border. It’s a collection of an old weird amusement park, souvenir shops, bad restaurants, and freaky animal statues. We have to take pictures with the animal statues. My favorite shot is Jeff with his head between a gorilla’s legs. The idea is that Jeff’s head are Gorilla Testicles.

And as always, after the second gas stop, Jeff gets behind the wheel his race against himself.

“I forget how to drive on the highway,” says Jeff as he gets behind the wheel, to do his infamous final drive home. “Just go to sleep and we’ll all wake up in heaven. Together. We can jam for all eternity. Get those kinks out.”

I wonder what heaven would be for The Apes. It doesn’t quite matter. We are already here.

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Monday off, Tuesday Baton Rouge

posted by Majestic Ape at 12:04 AM



Its Monday and there is no show tonight. We are going to drive most of the way to Baton Rouge, the location of the Tuesday night show. We have planned to pick a cheap motel about two hours away from Baton Rouge. This will be our first motel stay of this tour and we are hoping to find a television with proper computer inputs. Jeff has been storing the movie, Borat, on his computer this whole time.

We decide to stop around 7:30 pm. We pull off the highway after passing an exit sign listing several motel choices. Little did we know at that moment, we were entering historic Natchitoches, LA. After lots of nightly rate discussion with various front desk clerks, we opt for the Comfort Inn. They offer a AAA discount and give us a room with two double beds for about 60 bucks after taxes. We don’t even have to sneak people in.

Our dreams are quickly dashed when we discover, well, you guessed it. The television has the wrong inputs. Jeff is devastated but the rest of us are not discouraged. We are not accustomed to wall sized movie screens in our basement residences. We will happily watch this movie from the laptop computer screen and we will laugh! HA HA HA!

After an elaborate dinner at the Burger King across the highway, Erick and I decide to explore this historic town. We are not ready to lay in bed for the evening. We drive about 4 miles down the main road and pass a body of water on the left. I want to stop there but its too dark to see if there is a shore side path for walking. Next we pass Northern Lousiana State University. Naturally, Erick wants to pull over there and walk around campus. I’m not interested. It looks pretty deserted. Maybe its Spring Break. We continue driving and I follow signs for the historic district. The only thing we find is a 24 hour Super Walmart. This will have to do. I’m certain that most of the local folks are probably here if they are still awake.

We separate and wander alone for a while before eventually regrouping in the hard liquor isle. We gasp at the very low prices for some very typically more expensive whiskeys. I egg Erick on and try to get him to buy a bottle. I have no intention of drinking, I just feel like bugging him. He is not interested. Apparently, he got wasted at the house parties in Denton. I had no idea.

Back at the Comfort Inn, Breck and Jeff are relaxing and having some personal computer time. They are both hunched over, tap tap tapping when we talk in. And then finally, finally, Jeff sets up for the official band viewing of “Borat”. I have already seen it in the theatre but I still laugh just as hard. When the movie is over, it’s only 1:00 am, but everyone seems like they are going to sleep. I can barely keep my eyes open. The motel bed finally does the trick and I sleep till Jeff’s watch alarm clock goes off at 9:30 am.

I know the motel has free breakfast until 10:00 am. I almost never eat normal breakfast food but I leave the room in search of free coffee. I sit down in the mini-kitchen and immediately, an elderly couple starts chatting with me about their travels. They are retired Navy people and firefighters. They have been in Texas visiting their grandchildren and are slowly meandering back to their home in Lake County, Michigan. After about 8 minutes, I am shown pictures of the daughter-in-law and grandchildren. They are all simply beautiful. Our conversational exchange dies quickly when I tell them why I’m on the road.

After we check out, we go back to the historic district in search of food and coffee. Their coffee shop is a bust but Breck wants waffle house anyway. We had seen at least 10 Waffle Houses on the highway yesterday so I figure we inevitably pass one. We drive for 2 hours with not one sign of a Waffle House. I can’t believe it. When we finally give up, Erick and I end up at a Chinese Buffet. Breck and Jeff get pizza. More leftovers to stink up the van.

We get to Baton Rouge at about 5pm. The weather continues to be absolutely perfect. We park near the university. Erick and I walk around a lake for close to 90 minutes. There are a ton of people out exercising. I am reminded that this is a normal work day for most people. When we drive over to the Spanish Moon, fellow DC band, Antelope, have already arrived. We know these guys from home and are pretty excited to play with them tonight. They are at the beginning of a 6 week tour. I am thankful we are headed home now only because I’m still scarred from 6 week tour with Liars last summer. We are warmly greeted by promoter Aaron, and sound man Jeff, who point out that this is our third stop here this year. While they anticipate this will bring a large crowd for the evening, I suspect it will not. I am right. In the dressing room, we find a large bottle of Jack Daniels with “Apes” written on it. There are many ways to ease the pain of the empty rooms.

We are having minor concerns about finding a decent shelter for the evening. Our only Baton Rouge friend, Carlee, has just moved to Austin. I offer to book a Motel 6 and pay for it myself but nobody is interested. They would rather I ask for a place to stay during our set. That night we are also playing with Akron, Ohio band “Six Part Seven”. We know many of the same people and share benevolent stories about tours past.

Antelope play first and I enjoy them quite a bit. My favorite song is called, “Wandering Ghost.” I change clothes during the middle of Six Part Seven’s set. I can barely keep my eyes open. For some dumb reason, I pound two diet cokes and a red bull. Stupid, Kleiny! Why so stupid?!

Our set goes smoothly. Afterward, Justin from Antelope, offers to share their room at the Extended Stay America. I am really grateful but we don’t want to infringe upon their space with our smells. Thankfully, we are approached my friendly band man, Fred Weaver. He suggests we stay at the house he shares with his father. I immediately think “clean shower” anytime we go to the home of a parent.

We follow Fred home. Jeff still sleeps in the van even though there are enough bedrooms and futons for everyone. I sleep on the floor of a room filled floor- to- ceiling with music books and magazines. I doze off reading an issue of Chunklet from 1999. 1999. Apes year 1. We were so young, so hopeful, so full of dreams.

The next morning we plan to meet Antelope at a local café. Fred joins us and we dine in style. After a quick pit stop at the local health food store to re-stock (Breck needs a Kombucha), we say goodbye to our friends from home.

The drive to Birmingham seems incredibly long to me. I am really quite sick of listening to the same 20 songs on my ghetto plastic MP3 player while I drive. Instead I make up stories in my head. There is more breathing to contemplate and brain journeys to take.

We are excited to arrive at the Bottletree and are warmly greeted by the staff. This is easily the nicest, most band-oriented club in the country. After we load in and order food, I get online. I need to upload some blogs. I haven’t uploaded anything since the first day. Naturally I get distracted while waiting for blogger to load. That site is hideously slow. I never do it. After we eat, we talk to our super friend and fan, Chris, who is now working the door.

I approach Chris to say hi. He tells me how excited he is for the show tonight. He also tells me that after our last show, he listened to Baba’s Mountain (our last record) for the entire month. He told me that he thought he heard the voices in the beginning of the record calling, “Chris! Chris!” He is right.

Also, we see Lee, our dedicated super-friend, who has driven four hours to be with us tonight.

The opening band, Vesper, kicks ass. I dance during their whole set. The next band was unexpectedly switched at the last minute. We were supposed to play with Two Ton Boa from Portland but their drummer was ill. 31 Knots, also from Portland, arrived just in time to take their place.

When we play our set, there is a serious amount of love and energy in the house. We feel it and do our best to put out some high energy music in return. We even do an encore and I think its our first this tour. When we are done, I ask from stage for someone to take us home with them in exchange for an early morning kitchen and bathroom cleaning. We get several sincere offers. We opt to stay with one of the club employees who lives in a nearby loft. He has secure underground parking so Vannie will be safe.

We follow him back to his building and shuffle in with our gear. Jonathan, our host, happens to be a brilliant photographer and while we settle in, we admire a bunch of his work. He asks about shooting us in the morning. I hesitate but Breck is into it.

Breck and I wake up first. Jonathan and Breck go off to the park to take pictures. I stay behind to draw a self-portrait. Jonathan is also doing a series of shots of people holding self-portraits and I have agreed to this type of picture. After the drawing is complete, I wander off alone to find coffee. I am always surprised by how friendly people are. Everyone I pass on the streets of downtown Birmingham goes out of their way to smile and say hello. I eventually arrive at Safari Coffee and I’m greeted by a lovely South African gentlemen. He describes for me, the origin of the Bundi roast I am about to consume. The coffee is great. I consider buying a pound to take home but remember Jeff’s announcement that we are losing money on this tour. There will be no payout at the end.

When I get back to the loft, everyone is there. I re-do my self portrait drawing. The first one looked frog-like but the second one is okay. We take a few photos and head out.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday in Austin

posted by Majestic Ape at 11:49 PM




You’d think a clean comfortable bed in a quiet room at the Hilton would ease ‘ol crazy brain to sleep. Not me! Not this nut job! I was too tense about getting back to Adam’s house in the morning. Arrangements for my transportation had been made the night before but the mode of transportation was making me tense as well.

I had to be in the Hilton lobby at 9:00 am, as that was the time that the limousine would be picking me up. Yes, I did say limousine. I needed a ride to a place that was 2 miles away and I had 2 hours in a chauffeured limo to get there. When the limo pulled up, I rushed over to it and jumped in. The transition from 87 Ford Econoline Conversion Van to limousine is not a smooth one but I quickly became friends with the driver. Since I had two hours allotted for a 30 minute ride, I asked him to take me to Whole Foods for breakfast. Next, I asked for the river. I wanted water.

Jason, the driver, and I walked around the nature path discussing every topic imaginable. I saw beautiful birds and 4 red-eared sliders (turtles). He dropped me back at Adam’s around 10:30 am. The door was unlocked and everyone was sleeping. The living room smelled vaguely of drummer sweat and dog fart. I had just taken a photo of the limo sitting adjacent to Vannie (our van).

Today we had two shows. We were scheduled to play a party for KVRX radio station and we were also playing the showcase for our booking agent, Michelle of Panache Booking, later that night. The KVRX party was being held at a place called The Indepedence Brewery located quite a distance from the downtown area. Many of the roads leading to the Brewery were so new that Candace (the computer) and our GPS didn’t identify them.

The female computer voice repeated herself several times. “Off route. Return to route.” I know, Candace! I know! Relax! Sometimes you just have to take a chance! Jeff showed me on his screen that we were floating in space.

It was an odd afternoon but nonetheless pleasurable. By the time we were finished, we had to drive straight downtown to load into the Flamingo Cantina. Due to numerous road closures and imprecise directions, it took a damn long time to make our way into the alley behind the Cantina to unload. I had to promise the police officer blocking the street that I would take only 10 minutes to unload and leave the premises.

Jeff and Breck decided to go back to Adam’s after load-in. Erick and I wanted to stay downtown amidst the chaos. We wandered for a while and eventually made our way to Mekong River for an Asian dinner. Erick firmly believes that he plays best with Asain food in his stomach. Hey, whatever it takes. We waited 45 minutes for our dinner. I watched several patrons become enraged and demand either food or money. I guess you can’t let people get too hungry or they lose their minds. Duh.

We headed back to the club around 9 pm. I started to get excited because I was hoping to see many loved ones at this show. The bands began and there was not one disappointment.

After our set, we hung out with friends and watched the other bands. When we were leaving, Josh and Evan decided to come with us. It seemed like everyone wanted to keep partying, even though it was really late. Well, Erick was the most determined to keep partying. I think that he thinks he is going to miss out on something if he goes to bed before 5 am. I like to stay out, too, but I have limits. By the time we dropped Jeff and Breck off, Erick has planned to go right back to the Flamingo Cantina. He wanted to pick up Michelle so she could lead us to the hottest party in Austin. I had already changed my mind. I just wanted to chill with Evan and Josh, quietly, maybe at their motel. Erick was relentless.

“Kleiny. We are going back out. How often are we all together in Austin? Hunh? Hunh? Don’t be lame, Kleiny! Don’t be lame! Lame! Kleiny! Kleiny! Come on, Kleiny!” I’m never sure if he thinks that saying my name 100 times will finally change my mind. But I’m weak. Erick never gives up till he gets his way or you disappear. Then the phone calls start.

I had already given up. We were already back in the van going to retrieve Michelle. She had received word about some party on a bridge. Did they say Hansen was supposed to play?

When we finally arrived at the bridge, there was, in fact, a band playing. It was a punk band from Milwaukee. Despite the sleep deprivation that was beginning to accumulate, I was dancing and having fun. But my buddy Josh tuckered out. When he announced he was going to start walking home, I insisted we all drive back together. It was time. We did stay long enough to greet former tour mates, zZz, from the Netherlands. They were still the tallest dudes we’d ever played with. When I hugged Bjorni, I think he wanted to pick me up but I clenched those little feet on the ground. We said our farewells at 4:30 am.

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Day 5

posted by Majestic Ape at 11:47 PM

It’s Wednesday. We are bound for Austin and it’s the first official day of the South by Southwest Festival, 2007. We are not playing tonight. Our tentative plan is to register, get dinner, and go to the Birdman Records showcase at Club D’Ville. All day while I am driving, I think back to past festivals. We have never stayed for more than a day or two but this time, we are staying till Sunday. I also keep thinking that it was right after this festival, in 2004, that I developed anorexia. I had been engaging in many maladaptive food and exercise behavior for years leading up to that time, but when I got home after that tour, everything got far worse. That spring season, I believed that I was engaging in a great experiment. I thought that I was practicing the only scientifically proven way of extending cellular lifespan—calorie restriction. But it became an obsession, one that would leave with almost no measurable body fat and seriously ill for 3 years. Anorexia is a bitch. It’s like being possessed. Anorexia claims more lives than any other mental illness. It’s also much more difficult to recover when it starts in adults with a history of being overweight. That was pretty much my case history. I finally got help around Christmas. At the present moment, I am ‘in recovery’. I am aware of the relapse rates. I am also aware that when I was actively anorexic, I was totally mentally and physically incapable of interacting with anyone or creating anything. I could go on and on about life with anorexia and life in recovery, but the whole point of my writing about this is to simply say that I am, for the first time, perhaps going to experience this festival, as a healthier person. I will experience the festival.

When we get to Austin, traffic is a mess. There are bands, vans, music people, industry people, press people everywhere, filling the sidewalks, streets, and bars. We double park by the Hilton. Erick and I head for the convention center. Instantly someone hands us black Miller Highlife hooded sweatshirts. Someone calls our names from above. We look up. Todd Cote, our old booking agent from Leafy Green, is waving at us from the 2nd floor of the Hilton. We excitedly wave back. We are looking forward to seeing tons of friends down here.

“Free shit! That’s what I’m talking about!” says Erick. We are all hoping that the next several days will be filled with ample amounts of free food, alcohol, and designer custom-tailored clothing. The Apes have set their sights quite high.

We learn that we get only one badge per band and each band member must be present to get their own wrist band. With our new hoodies, and a giant tote bag full of SxSW paraphernalia, (music magazines, condoms, and a hangover survival kit), we return to the van.

After Breck and Jeff have gotten their wristlets we park the van, get food, and head to the Birdman Records showcase. I can’t wait to see David KazNelson, Matthew Johnson, Paul Quattrone, Alexei, all of our birdman family.

There are lots of excited hugs. I run into one of David’s business partners that I had met during CMJ. We had hit it off during CMJ but due to the band’s recording and show schedule, we hadn’t had another chance to hang out. It’s an unexpected treat to run into each other again. This very generous person buys drinks for all of my band mates. They couldn’t be happier. We hang out at Club D’ville for a while until the boys want to go see Faceless Wearwolves playing down the street. We walk over together and as soon as they settle it near the front of the stage, I take off alone. I have the itch to wander and stare at people.

I get several text messages while I walk and ignore them all. Just as I start to return to find my group, I run into some of the guys from Club D’ville. They are going back to their room at the Hilton and invite me to join them. My first inclination is to refuse, as if I’m abandoning my band. But that’s ridiculous. I can go somewhere without them. I go.

Being at the Hilton is bizarre. Apes don’t go to 4 star hotels. Apes don’t really go to hotels at all, unless we are in Europe, and the promoters pick up the tab. The Hilton is bustling with the fancier side of the music crowd. We go up to the 18th floor. Room service is ordered. I get a delightful foot massage. Wow. I use the bathroom several times, only because its so cool to not sit in urine. No pee on the floor either. Or writing on the walls. When the toilet flushes, its contents go down.

I am invited to stay at the Hilton. There is an extra bed. My phone rings. Erick Jackson.

“Dude, where are you? Where’d you go? Everyone was looking for you,” he reports.

“I’m at the Hilton.”

“What are you doing there? You better not get any ideas in your head. Are you gettin’ weird? You are coming home with us,” he insists.

He’s right. I am going home with them. I had committed to driving them back to Adam’s house and I have no intention of going back on that word. I also feel weird about staying in someone’s room that I don’t really know. At 1:45 am, I take off and find my band mates on the street. I feel relieved to be back with them, for no particular reason.

I drive home. I should say, I drive to Adam’s.

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